‘Northern Stars’ team reunite to create a porcine feast

We’re not sure whose idea it was to do a collaborative supper club with a ‘guest chef’, but it turned out to be a good one. As we mentioned in our last blog announcing the menu, we’d managed to cobble together (ie – press gang) a team of knowledgeable food lovers for BBC Food Quiz ‘A Question of Taste’ (as we were, er, ‘too busy’ to do it ourselves.)

Into the breach stepped the ‘Northern Stars’ – North Star Chef Ben, team captain (and food blogger) Joby and lady pig farmer, SJ, who beat the pants off the opposing team by the sheer awesomeness of their food knowledge.

So they proved they can talk the talk, but could they walk the walk and win over the guests at our next supper club with a menu co-designed with Joby, using pork from one of SJ’s lovingly reared Tamworth pigs, and prepared by Ben and supper club chef Deanna?

Well, yes as it happened. We hope the photos convey what a great feast we managed to produce and also the amount of fun we all had doing it.

Joby had a great idea for the menu. As we were dealing directly with SJ, why not include dishes that use parts of the pig that are usually hard to find? This appealed to us immensely as we’re always keen to make things that we haven’t tried before and to offer diners dishes they probably wouldn’t try making themselves at home. Joby said he’d always wanted to make his own black pudding and we suggested that traditional Northern staple, faggots.

Unfortunately we now live in a ‘cling film generation’ where we’ve generally become quite disconnected from our food and we don’t even ask that many questions about where it comes from or what’s gone into it. For thousands of years people have looked after their own domesticated pigs with the understanding that after a life of being fed, nursed and housed, they get eaten. In order to feed your family and get a good return on your investment, it would be pretty stupid to turn your nose up and not eat EVERY LAST BIT OF IT.

Black pudding exists in many cultures in one form or another – boudin noir, morcilla, blutwurst, bloedworst, etc. Essentially, it’s a cooked sausage made using blood, spices, back fat and filler such as oats. Joby wanted to flavour ours with a wonderful rich local stout he’d found and you can find the exact recipe on his blog.

Ben told us he’d made black pudding before but had always used some kind of readymade mix containing dried blood. We suspected it may have something to do with the current food regulations regarding such a ‘high risk product’, so we called our helpful butcher Frosty for some advice. It turns out that most commercial black pudding makers (even the local award winning ones) use this dried mix. Without going into too much detail he told us that the current rules regarding blood coming into direct contact with meat were very strict, meaning the process of collecting blood was very labour intensive and that there wasn’t much call for it. In short, the days of hanging a pig over a bucket were long gone and a lot of the traditional practices (along with the dishes) had gone out of favour too.

Anyway, we’ll spare you some of the gorier photographs and let you see the finished product. Joby decided to serve our homemade black pudding and some of Bury’s finest for comparison with parsnip puree and crisps, poached rhubarb, watercress and some gorgeous Porcus air dried ham. We served the same starter with meat-free black pudding for our vegetarian guests.

For part of the main course, the faggots were a revelation. Very like a cross between a course pate and a meatball, made using minced pork shoulder, pig liver and heart mixed with onion, parsley, mace and allspice, all bound with breadcrumbs. Traditionally they’re wrapped in caul fat and baked before being served in rich onion gravy.

We served it with pork loin and tenderloin on an apple and ginger sauce, pressed crispy pork belly, spiced red cabbage, caramelised apples and a cider fondant potato. Many supper club regulars pronounced it to be their favourite dish yet – well done Northern Stars. SJ was kind enough to say a few words to our guests before the main course, just to give them a glimpse into a day in the life of a local pig farmer and to invite everyone to visit the farm and meet the pigs for themselves.

Joby wanted to use the supper club as an opportunity to promote another local producer from Todmorden – Pextenement cheese. For our vegetarian main course, we served their Pexxomier wrapped in crispy filo pastry with caramelised apples and red cabbage. All guests were given the opportunity to sample some of the delicious camembert-like cheese after dinner.

Joby went to collect the Pexommier from Pextenement dairy in Todmorden

Both pork and cheese make a perfect pairing with acidic fruit so, after consulting what is in season at this time of year, Deanna made pineapple tart tatin with ginger ice cream and a coconut tuille biscuit for dessert.

Our first guest chef collaboration was a real success. Many thanks to Joby for getting fully stuck in and introducing us to two more wonderful, independent, North West food producers. Thanks to him also for taking most of the photographs for this blog and lending Deanna the camera to take some too.

Our next supper club is planned for 22nd March and the theme will be local producers and ingredients found in Cheshire. Keep an eye on our Facebook* and Twitter pages for further details regarding the menu and how to reserve your seat and we hope you can join us soon.

*Visit our Facebook page to see some more of Joby’s photographs.